Preview: Warriors need to call on their round 1 experience to beat the Spurs

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We always think of the Spurs as the team with experience. They have championship core and all those playoff wins, after all.

But the Warriors have some experience too, especially when it comes to the situation they’re facing heading into game 2 in San Antonio Wednesday night. In their 1st round upset of the Nuggets, the Warriors also entered game 2 trailing 1-0. In that series they also lost game 1 on a last second shot after mostly controlling the action that night. The Warriors went on to win game 2 in Denver, getting the split they needed to take control of the series.

Tonight, then, the biggest thing the Warriors can do is recall on their experiences from the first round and understand that their goals are still attainable. They mustn’t get hung up on how they lost game 1. They lost a big lead. It happens. Their focus instead should be on everything they did to get that lead while understanding they have the ingredients needed to win this game.

This isn’t to say there aren’t adjustments to be made on there end. The Warriors must find a way to get Jarrett Jack going. One of the reasons Stephen Curry wore down by the end of the game was due to the enormous load he had to carry as lead guard with Jack struggling from the floor, shooting only 5-15. Getting Jack free to create going to the rim — especially when Tim Duncan is on the bench — will help generate offense, lightening Curry’s burden in the process.

Golden State must also find a way to find more minutes for Andrew Bogut. While Klay Thompson has turned into the Warriors’ perimeter stopper, Bogut is still the key to their entire defense. It’s no coincidence that the Spurs’ 4th quarter run came with Bogut mostly on the bench. It’s understandable that in a high pace, heavy pick and roll game that Bogut can be somewhat out of place, but he’s too important to keep on the bench for extended stretches, especially when defense and rebounding will be such big keys in beating San Antonio.

On the Spurs’ side, they must also start to make some adjustments. Tony Parker had a difficult time dealing with the length and quickness Thompson offered defensively, only breaking and showing that typical Parker spark after Thompson fouled out. Parker needs to be more aggressive earlier in the clock and find scoring chances before the defense is set, potentially even getting possessions started before that cross-match with Thompson can take place. Parker was at his best when he abandoned setting up in the half court and instead hunted fast break chances — even when he didn’t have a man advantage. He can do that more and should look to.

And even though Duncan had 19 points, they must also find ways to get him easier baskets. Using quick screen actions to free him up going to the post or looking for him more in early offense rather than as an outlet at the top of the key after running drag pick and rolls are a couple of ways to make this happen. Duncan is facing two quality big man defenders in Bogut and Festus Ezili and that showed in his 6-15 shooting line in game 1. But he’s still as crafty as ever in the post with an ability to not only score but to draw fouls.

Defensively the Spurs must also decide what their match ups are going to be. Tony Parker really struggled guarding Curry and Thompson, while Kawhi Leonard did  the best job of all San Antonio defenders on Curry. Don’t be surprised if we see a switch where Curry moves onto Harrison Barnes while Leonard defends Curry full time. Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich typically isn’t fond of switching or tilting his defense too far in any one direction, but in this case Curry is simply too important a player to the Warriors’ success to not do everything possible to limit his effectiveness.

For both teams, it’s all about calling on your experiences to get you this all important win. For San Antonio, they’ve been around the block enough times to know that going up 2-0 puts them in great position to win this series. While the Warriors know that all they need to do is steal this game and they’re suddenly the team with home court and momentum.

Game 1 offered fans the best show of the playoffs to date and we’d all love nothing more than to get a repeat effort from both teams.

Dikembe Mutombo to receive Sager Strong Award

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NEW YORK (AP) — Hall of Fame basketball player Dikembe Mutombo will receive the Sager Strong Award at this year’s NBA Awards show.

The award is named for longtime Turner Sports sideline reporter Craig Sager and presented annually to an individual who has been a trailblazer while exemplifying courage, faith, compassion and grace.

Mutombo’s honor was announced Tuesday by the NBA and Turner.

The four-time Defensive Player of the Year created the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation to improve conditions for people in his native Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital has treated nearly a quarter of a million people since opening in 2007.

He will receive a colorful suit jacket, the kind Sager fashioned during his years on air before dying of leukemia. The award will be presented on June 25 in Santa Monica, California.

Former New Orleans coach Monty Williams was last year’s inaugural recipient.

Kyle Kuzma says Lonzo Ball hitting weight room hard this offseason

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It wasn’t just Lonzo Ball‘s awkward jumper that was a problem for him, so was his finishing around the rim — Ball shot less than 50 percent in the restricted area and 43.6 percent inside eight feet. In today’s NBA, he has to become more of a consistent scoring threat to open up his passing lanes.

Part of that is Ball getting physically stronger, something that also would help him avoid injuries and play in more than 52 games (what he did as a rookie). That part he is working on already, Kyle Kuzma told Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

“Consistency in the weight room, that is the biggest thing,” Kuzma said on Tuesday of what he has seen out of Ball this offseason so far. “He has been in there pretty much every day I have been in here around this time. You can tell he is taking the weight room a lot more serious and that is going to help him by allowing him to recover faster and hopefully next year be on the court more because of that weight room.”

The Lakers are counting on the development of their young core — Ball, Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, etc. — as well as free agents they can attract this summer to lift them into the playoffs next season.

Magic Johnson told Ball this is going to be the most important summer of his life, that now he has to put in the work to take his body and game to the next level. To play like a No. 2 pick.

So far, so good.

Re-watch highlights from the final minutes of Houston’s series-tying win

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After the game, Warriors coach Steve Kerr said his team ran out of gas, which is what led to their 3-of-18 fourth-quarter shooting and just 12 points. There’s some truth to that, particularly with Andre Iguodala out forcing other guys into the rotation and a heavier load on the stars.

But give the Rockets credit here.

Part of what wore down the Warriors was fantastic pressure defense from Houston that made Golden State really work on offense. As Golden State got tired, players settled for midrange jumpers, not getting to the rim much (three times in the quarter) and not having the legs under their threes (0-of-6 in the quarter).

Meanwhile, it wasn’t pretty, but James Harden and Chris Paul were making plays.

Check out those plays again in the video above — we finally got a good game in a series, we should savor that.

Steve Kerr on Warriors’ late possession vs. Rockets: “I wanted the timeout”

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The Houston Rockets leveled the Western Conference finals against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night by a margin of 95-92. The win for the Rockets was ugly, but it leveled the series at 2-2 heading back to Houston.

It was a close game down the stretch, and it looked like Golden State’s last chance to get the win was going to come on a possession with 11 seconds to go following a missed James Harden jumper.

The Warriors immediately turned up the floor and did not call a timeout. The resulting possession was messy, and it wound up ending on a difficult Klay Thompson turnaround jumper. Golden State would get another shot at a 3-pointer with half a second left thanks to a foul on Thompson’s miss, but many were still left wondering why Steve Kerr did not choose to call a timeout during the possession before.

Kerr addressed the decision after the game.

Via Twitter:

You sort of have to side with Kerr in principle, but if you’d seen the way the Warriors played the rest of that fourth quarter you would probably err on calling a timeout and letting them set something up. Curry was 1-of-8 in the fourth, Durant shot poorly most of the game, and Golden State scored 12 total points in the final period.

When you consider Curry got a look at a wide open 3-pointer in the corner with 0.5 seconds left on the clock when the Warriors did call a timeout on the next possession, it makes it look even worse.

In any case, Houston beat out Golden State in a close game and we’re headed back to Texas for Game 5 on Thursday.